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“Does a forest know grief?” I love this question. Got me in such a philosophical frame of mind. Grief is a powerful thing, something we experience when something is gone forever,and forests have this ability to regenerate and regrow in ways that we can’t. So I wonder if and how they experience it. Loss, sure, sadness, perhaps, but grief? I don’t know! I’ll be sitting with this one for a while, I think. Thanks for your wonderful words, as always.

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Thanks for exploring this idea, Christina. It's a question I posed without really spending time with it. I like your formulation here, that forests are always renewing, even in grief. I suppose that's one more lesson to learn from them, right?

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Apr 12Liked by Jason Anthony

I've always liked trees better than most people. There is so much governments could do: mandate smaller houses, lots large enough for a tree or two, bring back "victory gardens", refuse building permits for arrable land, mandate greywater systems and rainwater collection. In default of leadership by governments, those of us who care have to lead the way.

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Indeed. There's a reason we retreat to forests in order to revitalize before dealing with more people... And yes, so much sensible action to be taken, some of it easy, low-hanging stuff and some harder long-term cultural shifts. It's not just inertia in governance, though; so much of it is generations of successful mis- or disinformation. Of course so much good work is being done at all levels by folks who care. They're the fungal myceliae connecting systems for better results.

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Apr 12Liked by Jason Anthony

Thanks for this essay. Don’t be one person. That’s great advice, be together and work with others, the only way to make change happen. And now I’m going to read that 1972 article about whether trees have “standing”. Kind of funny word juxtaposition— trees are the ones that have been standing for the longest time!

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Thank you, Sylvia. I'm sure Stone intended the wordplay in "should trees have standing." I should read his legal piece more fully; I looked briefly after determining that it was the source that Powers' character was reading, but considering its importance to the rights-of-nature movement I should take a closer look.

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There was a whole offshoot of related writing when Stone's article came out ... unfortunately in the days pre internet so tracking it all through now would be a task ... it shaped so many of us. But, it's interesting to reflect how we also let it slip away. I am grateful you brought it back to mind again.

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Well, the credit goes to Powers, really, but I'm glad to be part of the conversation.

It sounds like you've been deep into this conversation for a long time.

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I have, on an off, for decades.

I had (before the wildfire) a filing cabinet drawer stuffed full of paper articles surrounding Stone, and the evolving discussion between conservation movement folks was rich and wonderful. Then the politics of the world changed and the discussion faded, replaced with a vacuous, neo-liberal version of environmentalism. It's wonderful to see it surface again, and even better within such a exquisite writing.

Thank you.

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Margi, I just dove into your writing here and read your astonishing bio. Thank you for the many, many years of devoted work at the highest levels to recognize and protect wildlife. And my heart goes out to you, your husband, and your community for all that you've gone through in this new, fire-filled world (the Pyrocene, as Stephen Pyne calls it). I'm honored to have you here.

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Thank you, Jason. That is kind and generous of you. The honour is mine.

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Yes, so far very interesting. Given written in 1972, just about the time legal status of the fetus became part of a large question, now so much in debate. And there’s lots more going on about this. Legal personhood of rivers. Topic pops up on google.

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Apr 14Liked by Jason Anthony

This was such a beautiful essay. I’m going to have to read ‘Overstory’ now. Another Forest book i recommend is ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wholleben. It goes in-depth about the community of trees & how they communicate with each other.

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Thank you, Lani. The Overstory is well worth your time. There are a lot of narrative threads ("roots") leading to the "trunk" (where stories begin to weave) and then to "crown", which I haven't read yet. More to the point, though, it's great writing with great things to say. We have The Hidden Life of Trees here somewhere. Thanks for the reminder to put it on the pile...

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These are glorious thoughts about community. They've taken root in a wonderful way, and I'll be turning them over and over for days.

Thank you.

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That's a very generous response, Margi, and all I can hope for as a writer. Thank you.

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I loved this post. Subscribed to some new peeps compliments of your roundup, and one thing to add (from a beekeeper who loves all the pollinators): Honeybees can’t pollinate everything. We desperately need all the wild pollinators from birds to bees, to butterflies. Bumble bees pollinate tomatoes and potatoes in a way only they can. We desperately need them all.

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Thanks for the kind words, Natalie, and for speaking up for the pollinators. Not only can't honeybees pollinate everything, the world doesn't want them to. We need the diversity of pollinators to support the diversity of plants they've evolved with. Which means we need to shed our monocultural urges whenever and wherever they pop up. Yet that kind of singlemindedness is still weirdly seductive to a profit-driven world. One pill, one bee, one tomato variety, etc.

I haven't written enough about pollinators, but you might appreciate a piece I did last fall that was rooted in a wealth of asters that bloomed after a very wet summer. It talks a bit about the variety of pollinators that arrived to tend to them. (https://jasonanthony.substack.com/p/life-among-the-stars)

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I go back to some of the ideas in that book a lot, most particularly, "What does green want of us?"

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There's so much lyrical brilliance in it, isn't there? He's able to sketch in these characters and drive a manifold plot forward while still singing as he goes. And singing about the real world, at that.

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So true. Such a brilliant book and it obviously speaks to many people, which makes me optimistic about some things.

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Right. We can add that virtue to the idea of best-seller lists, which sometimes need some virtue added...

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Every now and then they get one right ...

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Redwoods and their Spirits

https://substack.com/home/post/p-143419807

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Thank you, Charles.

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Apr 12Liked by Jason Anthony

You're the soul of consistency, Jason. Your essays are invariably excellent. This one no less so. It's a hard time to be a forest. The best of times with all that yummy carbon dioxide available. The worst of times with fires, floids, uprooting storms, invasive species of all sorts coming north to disrupt the forest community transport systems. And worst of the worst there are us, who deprive the forest of the absolutely fundamental resource: volume in space/time/energy. In my religion, there are four major Bodhisattvas who arose from the earth, but none devoted to the protection of non-human life, much less the forest. That's a deficit that cries for remedy and Anthropocene religions in general are in need of overhaul.

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I love the elegance of that line, Michael: "It's a hard time to be a forest." I wish I'd written it, but will try not to steal it.

It is indeed a hard time. The bulldozers and farmers have been one thing, but now even the most remote forests are being pushed, pulled, burnt and flooded by climatic forces that drive chaos more than evolution. Interesting what you say about the lack of ecological empathy in Buddhism; I wasn't aware. Seems like a voice guiding us toward self-awareness would at some point have factored in the reality of our context. But I'll leave that exploration in your capable hands. And as for overhauling the religions of the Anthropocene, can they expand their circle of empathy to the green world even as that green world falls back? It will have to be in a spirit of renewal, renewal of all things and our place within them. But even that is human-centric. The path around and beyond the self will be a narrow one, I think.

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I agree with all you said.

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Apr 12Liked by Jason Anthony

I just read Powers' book a few weeks ago and it is still on my mind. I think you would also like "Tree, A life Story" by David Suzuki. Not fiction, but a lyrical journey of a Douglas fir's life.

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Thank you, Fotini. I'll put it on my list (of books to buy and then sit in unread piles my wife observes with a certain unease...). One of the problems of writing this weekly essay is that much of my reading time is taken up with research in articles, essays, etc. But I like the sound of Suzuki's book.

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Apr 13Liked by Jason Anthony

Oh, that ever growing pile of books...

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Apr 12Liked by Jason Anthony

Jason, thanks for another beautiful, lyrical thought- and emotion- provoking exploration. Your words and photos here form their own network of mycelia!

I haven’t yet read The Overstory or Sumana Roy’s book, but they’re now on my ‘read soon’ list! Also, for more on the ground- breaking work (and life) of forester / researcher Suzanne Simard, check out B Frank’s Substack “Water into Stone” from March 29th! 🌲

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Thank you for the kind words, Laura. I'll take a look at the B Frank piece, and I'll keep working on growing my mycelia... Does that make you and my other readers plants and trees, feeding me sunlight and sugars while I provide you literary nutrients?

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Apr 15Liked by Jason Anthony

I love that that image of your mycelial network! Writers and readers definitely feed each other!

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Apr 12Liked by Jason Anthony

Thanks, Jason. I like this long easy meditation on trees, time, and human thinking. It goes well with the process of knowing nature in order to know what nature requires in order to thrive, and so what our western-type decision systems need to incorporate as the rights of nature.

It also goes well with the idea that knowing what natural intelligence fully is may be the best guide for the beneficial development of artificial intelligence.

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Nicely said, Tim. The more we expand the circle of empathy and the definition of intelligence to include the rest of the living world, the better we'll do as the planet reorganizes. I'm not much of an AI fan, but it's here, and so am especially intrigued by the idea of training AI solely on ecological intelligence, however one defines and describes that. What would a powerful AI that thought like a forest do in relation to the world we've built? As I'm sure you know, James Bridle explores the spectrum of intelligence across species and into corporate and artificial models in Ways of Being. It's fascinating.

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Beautiful piece, Jason. So much to admire here. “Don’t be one person” — yes. I just began serializing a short story that I wrote from “empathy and respect for a forest.” Trees have long fascinated me, both intellectually and at the level of soul. Here’s part 1 of my story, written from the POV of a maple tree under threat from a pipeline (based on a true story, sadly): https://open.substack.com/pub/buildinghope/p/heartwood-part-1?r=4cg2x&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

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Also, I enjoyed how you tied together excerpts from “The Overstory” with Rob Lewis’ critical work. And I appreciate your question about *acting* like a forest - exactly. One of the best metaphors I heard from a mentor in green architecture (terrible shorthand for a complex approach) is, Can a building be like a tree? Can a city be like a forest? Sure, we can only hope to skim the surface but such questions result in far more sensitive, resource-efficient, restorative and interconnected designs.

I once heard David Abram give an impassioned argument for *not* renaming this epoch after ourselves. It’s funny because I don’t recall his exact points, but the gist was - we need to step out of the center, since centering ourselves is what caused all this havoc, not reinforce that mindset with such a name. I wonder if he still feels that way.

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Thanks for all this, Julie. The queries you cite from green architecture got me thinking that while, as you say, we can only skim the surface in adapting current architecture and urban planning techniques in our current form, perhaps we can more deeply approach the forest reality if we adjust the reason those buildings and cities exist in the first place. In other words, if we make life more meaningful then so will be the opportunities to redesign how we live.

The Anthropocene naming question is a good one. I'm not crazy about it, despite centering it in the writing here, but I haven't heard a better option. And really, the whole point of the geological time scale is to map time in a way that makes sense to us. It's an entirely human construct, as all maps are. And while the name is annoyingly species-specific, it becomes a you-broke-it-you-fix-it reality for each of us once we understand what we've done. So, maybe simultaneously self-centered and motivational? Not the best recipe for enlightenment, but it's better than what we've got right now.

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